ACT vs SAT: Tips from an Admissions Pro on the Best Test for You

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Standardized tests are the subject of great debate in the college application process. One debate you may be having with yourself about standardized tests is: Should I take the ACT or the SAT?

I talk with students and families every day who are wrestling with college application decisions like these. Here are my three best tips on deciding which test to take.

1. Research and Compare Both Tests

While there are many similarities in the SAT and ACT, there are also a number of significant differences, including format, structure, length and topic areas covered. One of the best ways to decide is to brush up on your knowledge of what each test entails. There are several great resources available online to help you compare. One example: Kaplan’s chart with side-by-side comparisons.

2. Consider Your Test Taking Strengths

You have taken many tests in your high school career, so you know whether you need more time on certain types of questions and what your best subject areas are. Keep this knowledge of your strengths in mind when choosing. For example, do you run out of steam during longer tests? Then the shorter ACT may be best for you.

3. Check your State’s Testing Requirements

While all colleges and universities accept both the ACT and the SAT, some states require all high school students to take one or the other. North and South Carolina both require high schoolers to take the ACT, while Maine and Delaware require the SAT. You may wish to focus on preparing for the one your state requires to eliminate the stress of preparing for two tests.

Still unsure? Talk with your guidance counselor or an admissions counselor at some of the schools you are considering for additional tips and advice.

I hope these tips will help you choose your best standardized test option. And, whichever test you choose, be sure to keep this in mind: your test scores are only one piece of your application.

For insights on what colleges consider in the application process, see my blog post “How Colleges Decide Who Gets in and Who Doesn’t”.

Good luck on your college decision journey!

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